Man That Felt Good
September 10, 2012 at 10:28am by Scott • 5 Comments »
Breathe it in, people. Breathe in the sweet smell of a Buccaneer victory. It’s been several months and several other kinds of smells since we’ve experienced this, since we’ve been able to hold our heads high and go to the grocery store with our Buccaneers shirts on without having to make excuses for the team. I’m not booking my ticket for February in New Orleans (can you book passage on a submarine?) but it’s an excellent start and hopefully a sign of things to come.
I’ve really got no complaints about any of the positions. Josh Freeman looked more comfortable in the pocket, made good decisions and fucking RAN once in a while. He looked stronger in the first half than the second, but he didn’t force any balls and most importantly didn’t throw any interceptions. He had a 66% completion rate and a 95.5 passer rating. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams were the only wide receivers that caught balls yesterday, but they came up big when the had to (although Jackson did have a couple drops). The offensive line was solid except for part of the third quarter when things fell apart for a little bit. Jeremy Trueblood gave up a sack and so did Ted Larsen, who wasn’t awful but certainly isn’t Davin Joseph. Erik Lorig was paving roads all day long and catching everything thrown his way. He’s way better at fullback than I had ever given him credit for.
But the offensive performance centered around Doug Martin. I had heard rumors about “running back by committee”, but that ain’t happening. Martin rushed 24 times for 95 yards giving him 4.0 YPC. But the great thing about that average is that it was consistent. It’s not like he got stopped at the line five times and then broke one out for 30 yards. He was consistently getting chunks of yards on just about every carry, and that’s a much better way to get that average. Because in a pinch if you need two yards to keep the drive going, you aren’t rolling the dice with him.
And let’s not forget his ability to catch. He caught four balls from Freeman including one where he leapt over Luke Kuechly and had to keep him from wrestling it away (a cheap move by Kuechly since Martin had clearly caught the ball and been touched down before there was any question of possession). Keep in mind that Martin is only 4 foot 6, so outleaping anyone is a huge feat. Add his competent pass blocking and Martin made an excellent centerpiece for this offense.
The defense also put on an excellent show, throwing a shutout in the first half and limiting the Panthers to ten points altogether. Carolina only rushed for ten total yards. Go ahead and read that again. This was supposed to be the best rushing team in the league this year. Granted, they didn’t have Jonathan Stewart yesterday, but they still had DeAngelo Williams and Newton and probably felt they could run the ball up the middle. I know I thought they were going to. Part of their problem was Gerald McCoy, who put the entire responsibility of the front seven on his back and played like he had been possessed by the ghost of Warren Sapp (I am being told now that Sapp isn’t dead. My apologies.) He was disruptive all game long, not allowing Newton to set up and attacking the rusher in the backfield when it was a run. And Roy Miller is just fine as the nose tackle. Stop trying to replace him and just let him play.
I didn’t see a single missed tackle by the linebackers yesterday. I may have missed one, but there definitely weren’t many. Mason Foster and Quincy Black are much improved over last season and Lavonte David was an improvement over Geno Hayes the day he was drafted.
The secondary also played a good game, coming up with two interceptions and playing solid man to man coverage for most of the game. The offense is going to make their plays too, so plays like that 50 yard catch by Louis Murphy when Aqib Talib was draped all over him is really more about a perfect pass than poor coverage. The only problems I really saw were the two plays where the receiver (one of them being Steve Smith) was wide open. And I don’t mean he had a yard or two on the guy chasing him. I mean there were no other bodies in the TV frame when he caught the ball. Both times the Bucs got burned for a big play, one of them being a touchdown. I’m assuming these were blown coverages or miscommunications or something similar that can be corrected with watching film and running some gassers.
Ahmad Black looks like a star in the making. He had one beautiful pick on an underthrown ball and another almost-pick. And Mark Barron looked good, too. I think one of those blown coverages may have been his fault, but he’ll work that out. The dude sure can hit. Barron finished with three tackles and two passes broken up.
Can’t forge the kicking game. Connor Barth made three field goals (the difference in the score), Michael Koenen had four touchbacks on kickoffs and a strong day punting, and even a punt blocked by Talib who I am impressed to see playing on special teams.
Sorry if this write-up isn’t all that funny. Most jokes come from pain or something negative and this game didn’t have a lot of that. Just solid, aggressive, well-played football. The fundamentals have been emphasized this season and it shows.